Garth Brooks is one of the most celebrated musical stars on the planet. He is the biggest solo albums artist in the United States with 148 million domestic units sold, and is second only to the Beatles in total album sales overall. He is also the focus of the new A&E documentary The Road I’m On, which details his meteoric rise to fame.
Brooks has credited much of his success to his childhood experiences, and the influence of his parents, Troyal “Raymond” Brooks and Colleen Brooks. Read on to learn more about his parents, their respective backgrounds, and how they inspired a country music icon.
1. Brooks’ Father Raymond Was a Former U.S. Marine & Oil Company Worker
Brooks’ father, Troyal “Raymond” Brooks, was a former U.S. Marine. According to Random House, he worked as an engineer and draftsman for one of Tulsa’s biggest oil companies, Union of California. Brooks said that his father made a point of raising him and his siblings right, and so they were constantly reminded to act courteously.
When Brooks asked permission for something, the answer was “yes” or “no.” He was not allowed to go out of his yard unless he asked his mom or dad first. That said, Raymond was constantly on hand to entertain and play with his children. It’s said that the elder Brooks enjoyed playing guitar and singing as a hobby, and he instilled this love for music in the rest of the family.
During an interview with Biography, Brooks said that his father was a realist, and that he preached finding a practical solution. “Dad would tell you things, man. My dad, he was sweet, full of love,” he recalled. “But he’s going to be a realist.” Raymond died in 2010.
2. Brooks’ Mother Colleen Was a Professional Singer & Radio Personality
Brooks’ mother Colleen Brooks (nee Carroll) was a professional singer. She was featured on “Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee,” which was a pioneering radio and television show in Oklahoma. Her positive notices on the show caught the attention of Capitol Records, who promptly signed her to a record deal. Colleen recorded four singles for Capitol in the 1950s, but none of them left much of an impression on the charts.
Colleen eventually stepped away from a music career to raise her family. By the time she married Raymond, she had three children from a previous relationship, and he had one. That said, she nurtured her children’s taste in music, and exposed them to the sounds of country and western stars like Merle Haggard and George Jones.
Brooks said that his mother was a direct contrast, and compliment, to his father. “They were pretty real people. Mom believed you could fly,” he told Nash Country Daily. “Dad would pull you over and go, ‘Ok, if you’re going to fly, it’s going to take a helluva lot of work.’ So he was the realist … she was the dreamer … and they worked really, really good together.” Colleen died in 1999.
3. Brooks’ Half-Sister Betsy Smittle Was a Guitarist & Backup Singer
Brooks grew up with four half-siblings (Jim, Jerry, Mike, and Betsy) and an older brother (Kelly). His family hosted weekly talent nights at their home in Yukon, Oklahoma, and each child was required to participate, either by singing or doing skits. Brooks learned to play both the guitar and banjo during this time, but it was his sister Betsy who stole the show. He said that Betsy could “play anything with strings or keys” when they were starting out.
Betsy moved to Tulsa to pursue a music career in 1975, and she spent more than a decade singing backup for popular artists like Gus Hardin and Ronnie Dunn. She eventually joined her brother’s touring band in 1990, where she served as vocalist and occasional guitarist. “She has a wonderful knack for rhythm, but probably her greatest talent is relating to the audience,” Brooks told Oklahoma Today.
Betsy was a lesbian and a gay rights activist who performed at numerous gay rights events throughout her career. She released her lone solo album, Rough Around the Edges, in 1994. She died on November 3, 2013 at the age of 60. Brooks issued a statement, thanking fans for their kind words. “The amount of messages and heartfelt condolences we have received on behalf of our sister, Betsy, is staggering and humbling,” he wrote. “On behalf of our family, I cannot thank everyone enough for all the prayers and love.”
4. Brooks’ Daughter Allie Colleen Brooks Is a Singer & Songwriter
Brooks’ musical genes have extended to his own children. His eldest daughter, Allie Colleen Brooks, released her debut single in 2019, which is titled “Work In Progress” and was co-written by Marcus Hummon and Greg Brick.
“When I walked in the studio that day with Marcus and Greg, Marcus already had the entire song structure minus the chorus when we all sat down,” she explained. “For the first time, I wasn’t worried about how commercial the song was or what everyone else was going to think about the song. I was just honest. I think that is why we are so proud and excited to let you all in on who we are, as a work in progress.”
Allie’s middle name is a nod to her late grandmother, who she talked about during an appearance on the Bobby Bones Show. “My grandma was Colleen Carroll. She was a singer,” she said. “God knows if this story is true, but I always thought it was the coolest thing: My grandpa told us about the day he met our grandma. He was just in from the military. He went to a bar, and he just heard her sing. He was like, ‘I’m going to marry her.’”
5. Brooks Considers Family to be the Most Important Thing In His Life
Brooks admitted that he was once “the guy that thought more of myself than I should’ve,” but maintains that his relationship with his family has never waned. “We put the fun in dysfunctional,” he told Robin Roberts. “All it did was shine a light on our dysfunction in our family.”
During a separate interview with People, Brooks said that he values family over his music. “People said, ‘How could you walk away from music?’ But being a dad – there’s nothing that can touch that,” he explained. “Kids are the greatest joy and the greatest heartache you’ll ever have. The saying is, as long as your babies are healthy, everything else you can deal with.”
“If they have D’s, if they flunk, you deal with it. You can introduce them to the Lord, teach them manners, teach them to believe in themselves, but the truth is, they’re going to be who they’re going to be,” Brooks concluded.